Descending Pentatonic Fives


Just out of curiosity related to the discussion, and admittedly likely of no help to you (hah,) how long have you been working on these types of passages for?


A couple of years, to varying degrees. I first heard Joe Bonamassa and became interested in the EJ esque pentatonic fives around 2 years ago. I found CTC a little after that. I’m not the most disciplined player, though. I tend to have laser focus for a short period of time and then I’ll completely forget about technique for a while to focus on songwriting, recording, etc. Then I’ll realize my technique needs work, and rinse and repeat.

So, not 2 years of playing this lick diligently, but 2 years of knowing that I want to incorporate it into my playing, and maybe 1 1/2 years of understanding that my actual picking mechanic is even a thing that necessitates close examination and work.


I wasn’t aware @Troy was up to 190 bpm now. That’s impressive… and that’s after about 3ish years I think.

One thing to remember… is that we are just scratching the surface of all this. I’m sure someone here will break the 200 bpm mark pretty soon.

But for me, its less about X-picking vs. 2wps, and more about X-picking vs. sweeping. I think 2wps is still a great method for the guitarist that have mastered it… and I wouldn’t suggest ‘un-learning’ it. Listen to @tommo 's form. It’s freaken amazing sounding.

But I am a huge advocate of using X-picking instead of sweeping. Sometimes sweeping can sound good, like with straight 1nps ascending/descending, or if a player is skillfully mixing in legato to fill in the awkward gaps. But to me, sweeping has really diminishing returns, and the more advanced the phrase, the more awful it sounds.


ok, I guess ‘blazingly fast’ might be a misleading phrase, since I didnt mean speeds like >200bpm 16th. Yes, that is beyond anything I have seen demonstrated here, (but you never know).

But I was thinking of speeds well beyond 120 bpm… .like Eric Johnson speed… so I guess that would be around 170ish.


Holy Crap! What an amazing player! Sorry btw for kind of hijacking your response with my “anti X-Pick” rant. We do agree, that 120 bpm is just a number that means plateau, right? It could be 123,5678 bpm.

Ok, I am with you on that! I was really thinking about “shred”, in my mind that is 16th upwards of 180 bpm.


I have to say, after 2 Years for that phrase, 120 bpm does seem to me like something is not working right. Do you have other stuff that you can play faster?


I’m in agreement regarding sweeping. I’ve never been much of a fan and almost none of my favorite players incorporate sweeps. One of my goal pieces since I was really young is “Eugene’s Trick Bag” from the movie Crossroads starring Britney Spears. I’ve always thought that piece sounds much better using alt picking than it does using sweeping. Also, great movie. It really shows how underrated of a guitarist Britney is.


Not exactly! At fast speeds, I tend to only use the motions that are necessary for whatever string change I need to make. Meaning, if I’m playing on a single string very fast, I’m generally not using a “crosspicking” motion because it’s not necessary. I think this is what @7th11th is getting at, i.e. not whether or not there is a speed you can’t reach for crosspicking, but why you would need to use that movement for everything when the players who we have filmed don’t do this.

Martin / Andy and so on all tend to transition gracefully to simpler motions when they are playing fast. So yes, I do this, and it’s not specifically intentional. It’s just what happens. And again, based on the interviews we have done, most (all?) of these great players appear to do exactly the same thing. This includes players like Steve Morse, Molly Tuttle and Olli Soikkeli whose base motion has a type of curvature to it.

So to clarify for @RyanMW the reason I said you don’t have to worry about a “speed limit” is because efficient techniques don’t generally have hard speed limits. They either get sloppy or become a different technique, or both.

In your case, your “crosspicking” technique is almost exactly the same as your pickslanting technique. They both include wrist motion. The crosspicking one additionally has a small amount of forearm motion. As you speed up the crosspicking motion, the arm component will gradually disappear and you will be left with your pickslanting technique at your fastest speeds.

I think you’ll get your best results if you think of this as one technique across a spectrum, and if you don’t worry too much about when or where the switchover happens. If you try to play a particular line so fast that certain string changes are a little sloppy, then either you need to work on accuracy or the phrase simply doesn’t go that fast. But it’s not a “limit” per se, as in, some speed where you can’t go any faster. It’s just a range beyond which if you do go faster, things get too sloppy for your musical intent.

That’s it. You have great motions here and I would definitely work on both and learn to integrate them over time.


As a Born-Again X-picker, I can safely say that In cases where you just want to go as fast as possible, it’s kinda pointless to do the complete articulated ‘over the string’ stroke. In these cases, we almost instinctively save the articulated pick-strokes for the string changes… and underswing for the non-string changes.

As discussed before, when X-pickers do 3NPS, we do an almost identical motion as 1NPS, but we under-swing for two of the three strokes… so it basically becomes what Troy calls 2WPS… or a variation of it. @blueberrypie has discussed this as well.

But back to the speed limits, I was not refering to how fast a X-picker can pick 3NPS, or 2NPS lines. For me, I can go as fast as any almost anyone here. But, the 170 speed limit I am running into is specifically for 1NPS lines, because those do require full-double-escaping. But 170 is pretty damn fast. Still a ways away from Troy’s superhuman 190, but I hope to get there soon.


This is precisely what I was getting at. I also have to clarify my earlier post in regards to “economy picking”. This is not an economy picking lick. What I really meant was 1WPS. The two concepts kind of blend together in my head.

To further clarify the “safe” thing I was talking about: I think it is a bit risky to think “I am a crosspicker” and try to force a double-escaping motion all the time. At least to me that seems like an invitation to stringhopping. A 1WPS approach, where you always trap one and free the other pickstroke seems “safer” to me in that way, because it requests a certain type of motion-path that is less prone to stringhopping. Maybe @Troy can chime in on that?

Also, I would like to emphasize, that I don’t argue from a standpoint of personal preference. I only dabbled a bit with economy picking and sweeping, mostly to enhance my teaching. I alternate pick most of the time. But I do think that these approaches are in no way inferior to alternate picking, and most of the time yield much faster results in a shorter amount of time.

You can play this particular phrase with UWPS, with an added UP-Escape on just 1 note. This resembles @tommo 's setup when he does his fast ascending 3NPS stuff and the Yngwie sixes. I’ll try to film a take of this if I find the time.


Great idea! I should have thought of that, in hindsight it’s so obvious :wink:


As a teacher, it becomes tricky. I’ve seen teachers on both ends of the spectrum, some suggest that a guitarist should economy pick whenever possible, others that shun economy picking.

While I agree that economy picking is easier to learn, than 2WPS or X-picking… I also look back at my own experience, and wish that I hadn’t spent so much time on economy-picking early on. It ended up becoming a rabbit hole for me… where I simply couldn’t achieve the timing and dynamics I wanted.


Yeah, but I can only write it now, after you spend months on writing, practicing and filming for your thread.


ah ok I understand your points better now @7th11th - thanks for clarifying and apologies for misunderstanding.